Imagine a regime whose fundamental law is only to be found in ancient archives. Their mysterious contents take years to unearth, layer by layer. With new discoveries, bodies of established law are unexpectedly invalidated and discarded. Others, previously rejected, spring back to life as scholars revise earlier conclusions. The operations of government are in constant confusion. This state of affairs is likely to persist indefinitely.
That doesn’t sound attractive, does it? But that is where a prominent strand of modern originalist constitutional theory would lead us. This Essay is a critique of originalist methodology. The deepest flaw in the originalist program is not its methodological errors, however, but its weird political ideal.